Far from the melodrama of teeny soaps and Jason Schwartzman, Phantom Planet is alive again and back with their newest album, Raise the Dead. Tragically, the past will always follow the band but they are content to move forward with vigor and purpose. As most listeners will carry “California” into this record, it will soon be forgotten. Raise the Dead responds as vocalist/guitarist Alex Greenwald’s obsession with cults, their leaders, and the music which drives them. This opus will help deter the listener from the “California” pop and even garage rock tendencies of past Phantom Planet albums. Throughout Raise the Dead, it is evident Greenwald immersed himself into the studies of cults and such leaders as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson. The album’s upbeat and raucous sound is highlighted by double meanings and haunting orchestration. Several tracks strike with circus-like rhythms, luscious strings, subtle horns, and atmospheric effects. Upon their underlying themes, Phantom Planet have created an indelibly, grander record.
Raise the Dead opens with the title track in a booming anthem intensified by strings and Greenwald’s wailing, reminiscent of The Walkmen. “Leader” stands out as a track with joyful pop melodies streamed by a children’s choir and features excellent lyrics, which delve deeply into the album’s theme. While their first single “Do the Panic” harkens back to garage rock, the song forges ahead strongly behind Greenwald’s erratic vocals and the striking guitar riffs. “Ship Lost at Sea” contains bright horns and vaudeville rock which will send the listener reminders of 60’s pop. Indeed, the atmospheric blends of “Confess” offer a likeness to the excellence of Radiohead. Alas, the album closes with a serene ballad “I Don’t Mind” which gently slides beside lowly horns and a steady acoustic line.
Phantom Planet will surely surpass the listener’s expectations and their progression should only offer brighter hopes for future records. Raise the Dead is a wonderfully, haunting display of Greenwald’s (unhealthy) obsession with cult-life. Maybe now, he can leave “California” behind.
Standout tracks: “Leader”, “Raise the Dead”, “Ship Lost at Sea”
1. Raise the Dead
4. Do the Panic
6. Ship Lost at Sea
7. Demon Daughters
9. Too Much Too Often
11. Leave Yourself for Somebody Else
12. I Don’t Mind